Slight of Hand(lers)

IMG_0617I tried sending this blog yesterday but it did not post correctly. I want to blog of my most recent experience that I thought was a learning module for all.

For about two (2) months my client had been planning a private trip overseas. This was a fully paid trip with no complimentary features set in place. For the new guys here that means that there was no expectations of deliverables from my principal to off-set the trip cost. Approximately two [2] weeks prior to my advance departure I connected with the group sales POC at the RON to set up my arrival and hotel department management meeting. All was set!!!!

Upon my arrival in country I was met by a VIP services expediter and the hotel VIP concierge supervisor who whisked me through customs very quickly. I was placed in a 2013 Suburban [much to my surprise] and taken to a very well secured resort. The multiple security booth entrance was manned with armed guards who literally searched the vehicle prior to allowing us entrance. As we turned through the winding roads the concierge supervisor advised me that she would be my POC throughout the stay and would make her schedule mirror mine to facilitate all of my needs [GREAT]. As we approached the apron I observed a familiar site that I have seen countless times before, BUT only when I have had a principal in the right rear seat. Now I was in that position and there was a group of about ten [10] people standing to receive me. A bellman opened my door followed by the harmony of ten [10] people all saying in unison, “Welcome to ****** Mr. Konohia!” I exchanged pleasantries with all of the department heads and was checked in. The General Manager and the Group reservations manager stated that they would be ready for the meeting that I called with the entire group upon my return from my room.

I returned in about thirty [30] minutes and was escorted into a private office and sat down with the group. After they welcomed me again i went through my spiel of the “Do’s and Don’ts” when my principal and the group arrived. I got a clear affirmation from the GM and group reservations manager. I then left the office for a short tour of the several thousand acre resort. As soon as I walked to the van I noticed that there was another employee managing the tour and not the VIP Concierge supervisor [Warning flag]. I was unaware of why there was an immediate switch but quickly asked the young lady what department she was from. She replied, “group reservations”. In less than one [1] hour I witnessed a slight of hand. There was an attempt to handle me between two [2] departments. I managed my release of information with this new person because I had emphasized with the management staff that I wanted this visit kept to a need – to-know basis.

We toured the places of interest on the resort and then pulled up to my principal’s rented location. We took a short tour of the villa as it was being prepared for the arrival in two [2] days. There were several house staff in the villa cleaning as I walked through yet I could tell by their ambitious willingness to accommodate me, they already knew who was coming. Later that day I contacted the VIP Concierge supervisor and asked her to fix the issue. She called later and admitted that there was a tug of war between the group reservations [who managed the sales of the trip] and the VIP Concierge department [who normally manages the client once on property]. She stated that it had been worked out and that she would be my POC and go-to person from that point forward.

On the day of my principal’s arrival I went to the lobby of the hotel to meet with my POC, 3 suburbans and one [1] luggage van. Before we left I was met by the GM who stated that he wanted me to meet a Public Relations person that they had flown in for this trip [FLAG #2]. I met the lady and told her that this was a private trip. She stated that she was flown in to make sure I was assisted from the hotel management perspective of all my needs. I told her that the VIP Concierge supervisor was sufficient and that I did not need any additional people assisting or shadowing me.

The very next day I arrived at a location on the resort with my principal and his group for a day of activities. I had clearly intimated to the GM and others that I did not want an entourage of hotel and resort representatives on location yet upon my arrival I was met by the PR person and an additional person that she brought with her. I could see that my principal and the main facilitator of the trip looking to determine who these people were. I spoke to the appropriate person to have them excuse themselves, only to repeatedly see them throughout the activity. By the time we stopped for lunch they were already on location – AGAIN.

Later that evening we arrived at a, yes PRIVATE dinner and as we walked to the private area I had chosen I observed the PR person standing in front of the location dressed in evening wear. * This meant that someone from the hotel management told her exactly where  I chose that the group would be seated. As we approached the location I executed a diversionary move to get my principal in place without her being able to address him. I told my VIP point of contact to tell her that she would NOT be allowed in that private space. She was advised and walked off only to return slowly in an attempt to be seen by the group, in a last ditch effort to get noticed and invited at the table. NO SUCH LUCK.  At this point my Principal and trip facilitator knew I was working the issue.

I write this blog to give you an idea of how you have to be on your toes when it comes to high profile and HNW principals, especially on private trips when discretion and privacy are paramount. I strongly espouse to the ONE VOICE rule when it comes to hotel staff. The only other person outside that communication pipeline is the head of security. If you notice in this blog I never mentioned the security manager. That’s because after we met on day-1 we established a pipeline if I needed any additional help or concerns. The one time I did call him he responded efficiently.

Make sure you caveat your expectations and needs and stay aware of ulterior motives that the hotel may have for your visit, particularly on a paid trip.

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